Social Good: Our 2014 SXSW Interactive Picks

The best image from among all the SXSW Interactive session descriptions. #allthememes

Great nonprofits embrace innovation, and a great place to learn about innovation is SXSW Interactive. That’s why GivingCity is skipping our day jobs to cover this important event for you.

That being said, there is a common assumption among these tech panelists: That technology is what’s missing from your social change toolbox. While that may be true, in past years the tone was a little more patronizing. Today that tone seems to come from an increasingly humble place, as if tech is realizing that social change has other issues beyond the fact that we’re not using Twitter effectively. Who knows? In a few more years — once tech has more nonprofit work under its belt and nonprofits have more tech under theirs — we’ll meet genuine progress in the middle.

We can’t promise we’ll get to everything – there are more than 1,000 sessions in Interactive alone – but we will try to cover the following key sessions and events. (View GivingCity’s entire SXSW Interactive Schedule online.)


7-9 PM Dewey Winburne Community Service Awards at St. David’s Bethel Hall
Where SXSW Interactive recognizes 10 people from Austin and the world who use digital technology for good. It’s a low-key but affirming event, and a nice way to kick off our social good-theme. (GivingCity Austin is a past honoree, so we feel a camaraderie here.)



MARCH 7-11 Beaconfire’s The Beacon Lounge at 3rd floor of the Austin Convention center, Room 8bA place for do-gooders to hang out and connect, The Beacon Lounge is now in its 6th year. Speakers and music fill the schedule, and each days ends with a happy hour. March 7 is the “Grand Opening” Happy Hour from 3-6 pm.

11 AM Teeny Tiny Video, Great Big Impact at AT&T Conference Center
Led by a Lights.Camera.Help founder, Aaron Bramley, this session looks like it will give you a hands-on demonstration of how you can make short videos with your phone that can drive action.

12:30 Ethics & The Future of Crowdfunding for Communities, Austin Convention Center
Another panel led by Austin’s David Neff, author of “The Future of Nonprofits.” At the end of this session, the panelists and audience will have built a “crowdfunding bill of rights.”

12:30 Star Power: Innovative Ways to Engage Millenials, Austin Convention Center
Innovative approaches such as leveraging celebrity voices and platforms, new technologies and culturally relevant messaging is critical for impacting the social behavior of the fastest growing demographic – Latino millennials. Led by actor and activist Rosario Dawson, co-founder of Voto Latino.

2:00 The 10 Best Startups in Austin, Hilton Austin Downtown
This is Capital Factory’s Demo Day, it’s the kick-off to Startup Village and it ends in an open bar. While it’s not necessarily about activism or social good, we feel like it’s important to support our local entrepreneur community. And because open bar.

5:00 A Fearless Approach to Social Change, Hilton Austin
In this session, Jean Case, CEO of the Case Foundation, will outline the five key elements of a fearless approach to social change and share examples of great breakthroughs and innovations that have taken place when organizations across sectors have adopted these principles.

5:00 Next Level Online Advocacy, Austin Convention Center
Referencing examples from PETA, and HRC, this panel will discuss “disruptive” ways to engage online.

5:00 SXSW Nonprofit and Social Good Meetup, The Driskill
This meetup is for all of the individuals at SXSW that stand at the intersection of for-profit, brands, social good startups and nonprofits. This is a session for those like minded folks to come together and talk about what the future holds for nonprofits and social good companies.  You’re invited if you have interesting ideas, a SXSW Interactive badge, and are a nonprofit employee, social good startup employee, CSR staff, volunteer, funder, fundraiser, investor or board member. Please RSVP on the Facebook link.

View GivingCity’s entire SXSW Interactive Schedule online.


9:30 Breaking the Mold: How to Thrive When Allies Turn
It’s great to be a thought leader when your perceived allies are on your side. But how do you stay true to your ideals when allies decide you are a traitor to “the cause” and throw you to the wolves? This one will offer great examples of people and organizations who stood fast to their beliefs – and won.

11:00 Pixels, Plows & Personas: The UX of Food Deserts, Austin Convention Center
This panel is from the future. Recent trends in urban farming point to an emerging optimism, and it’s likely that virtual grocery stores will soon be the primary driver in improving nutrition literacy. This presentation will examine the cultural and societal impact of technology on food communities, and we’ll explore why user-centered design may be the key to solving one of our most fundamental human dilemmas.

12:30 Beyond Voter Reg: How to Engage the New Citizen, Austin Convention Center
The process of registering to vote has changed remarkably little in the last 150 years. But everything else has changed. How do we use this 21st century marvel – the Internet – to simplify and increase participation and engagement in the American democracy though? Oh, the possibilities.

3:30 How Technology Fuels Social Change, Austin Convention Center
This isn’t about the Internet, per se. It’s more about crowdsourcing and telemedicine and other fringe innovations. Where might your nonprofit use some of these technologies?

5:00 Technology and Disaster Education, Austin Convention Center
Central Texas has seen epic wildfires and floods in recent years, and the sad fact is recovery from these disasters will continue for years to come. With new social and digital technologies emerging every day, developing the tools to educate the public about mitigation and preparedness, and being with them every step of the way when disaster strikes—virtually at least—is easier than ever. Representatives from four non-profit and government organizations doing groundbreaking work in the area of emergency and disaster communications, will discuss how new technologies are creating innovative, engaging multimedia and mobile experiences that can significantly improve disaster preparedness and mitigation behavior. *THIS ONE HAS MY VOTE FOR MOST RELEVANT AND IMPORTANT PANEL IN SOCIAL GOOD.


An all-day social good fest led by Ruben Cantu of Core Media Strategies, and featuring speakers from all over the world. Ruben built this one from scratch a few years ago, and it was an immediate hit. You could spend the whole day at City Hall and get as rich a social good experience as you would at the Convention Center. This is an OFFICIAL SXSW EVENT – Badge holders will get priority entry and the public can RSVP on the site and 15 minutes before the start of each session the remaining seats will be open to those who RXVP’d online, so make sure you get your RSVP in if you don’t have a badge.


11:00 Can Great Journalism Make for Great Business?, Austin Convention Center
I can answer this one: Not by itself. So in this presentation, we’ll hear from M. Scott Havens, the president of The Atlantic. The 156-year-old general-interest magazine, which broke even for the first time in 2010 and continues to grow, now spans print, digital, video, and live-event platforms. What’s working and what’s not? What’s next?

12:30 Solo Social: What To Do When You’re On Your Own
This one is for almost every nonprofit communications professional in Austin – one-man communications teams. You’re in charge of writing content, the new internal social network, the external brand, and heaven help you if you haven’t figured out your organization’s strategy for Vine or Instagram video yet. This panel invites you to come together and share stories about how we make it all work. In the end we might even figure out how and when to say “solo is not enough anymore. I need help.”

3:30 Why Nonprofits Should Embrace Data Journalism, Austin Convention Center
Great for basic needs and education nonprofits, this panel will explore how nonprofits and news organizations can and should work together to communicate nonprofit data to the public. We’ll also discuss how nonprofits can create their own data stories in house or working with a vendor. Led by Megan Kilgore of Capital Area Food Bank.

5:00 #GivingTuesday: Inside the Sharknado of Giving, Austin Convention Center
Sounds like it will be a little braggy, but in this fireside chat, three of the people behind the #GivingTuesday movement talk about philanthropy, Facebook and the power of sharing. Join Stanford University’s Rob Reich, Facebook’s Libby Leffler and 92Y’s Henry Timms as they share lessons learned from the #GivingTuesday movement and what they are learning about the changing landscape of social good.

View GivingCity’s entire SXSW Interactive Schedule online.


ALL DAY SXSW Social Good Hub, Bungalow on Rainey Street
New for 2014, SXSW will host a social good hub to bring together the digital creatives, agencies, filmmakers and entrepreneurs for discussion and collaboration focused on social change. This space will feature mentor sessions, group discussions, presentations, networking and a launch party for SXSW 2015’s SXeve, a multi-day event space devoted to creating opportunities through entrepreneurship, technology, design and innovation for women worldwide.

9:30 Social Innovation: People, Planet, Profit, Purpose, Wanderlust
I’m mostly interested in this to learn about Participant Media, a company that is putting on a number of sessions in the Global Impact category. But this is probably about social entrepreneurship and maybe not so groundbreaking.

11:00 Private Tech for Public Good, Austin Convention Center
Often, the innovation coming out of Silicon Valley has been about creating a consumer good rather than a public good. This panel will discuss what is needed from the technology community in order to improve democracy and really make the world a better place. It will look at examples of new companies and technology working toward creating public goods, not just private technology.

11:45 Charity Porn: Sell Programs, Not People, Austin Convention Center
File this one under “Finally!” You know exactly what we’re talking about and likely have examples in your inbox. It’s the story about a girl named Diana who walks 4 hours a day to get clean water. You’re then told your $20 donation will change her life. But does $20 really change a life? No. These simple messages create short-term engagement, but in the long-term actually hurt the cause: selling a person’s story of tragedy and triumph rather than the work and solutions needed to really solve the crisis. Hear from Ned Breslin, a social entrepreneur who is sick of the same story and is ready to disrupt the norm with digital campaigns that focus on how we can make an impact – not temporarily, but forever.

12:30 The Future of Direct Activism in a Digital Age, Austin Convention Center
Climbing a smokestack or chaining yourself to a tree is so 20th century (though still awesome!). What can civil disobedience and non-violent direct action look like online? This panel offers examples and advice on how to use online tools to plan and execute real-life activism.

3:30 Geek Out for Good: Apps That Change the World, Austin Convention Center
Internet access is growing rapidly in the developing world. Networked software can help marginalized individuals and communities empower themselves, coordinate limited resources and create new economic opportunities, but only if that software is built with the unique needs and constraints of that community in mind. What lessons can we apply locally to our own “developing” Central Texas neighborhoods?

5:00 The Future of Government-Citizen Interaction, Austin Convention Center
The concepts of collaboration and location-based services have become popular not only with wikis, social media, and advertising, but are also changing a notoriously strenuous process: interaction between local governments and citizens. An app developed from New York City will discuss how his work can transform a previously isolated experience into a collaborative exchange of information and ideas that lead to change in our communities.

6:00 SXSEve Launch Party by, Bungalow
This sounds interesting. SXSW brings together the tech, film and social good communities to work together to improve communities through action. Here you’ll learn more about our new initiative SXeve: a community hub focused on empowering women via enterprise. In 2015, SXSW will connect people devoted to creating opportunities through entrepreneurship, technology, design and innovation for women worldwide. SXeve will feature meet ups, workshops, networking opportunities and special events designed to facilitate connections and collaborations among SXSW attendees. Dedicated to the late SXSW director Eve McArthur and her legacy working for social justice and gender equality, SXeve supports a brighter future for women across the globe.


11:00 Print or Digital? It’s The Package That Counts, Austin Convention Center
Led by Scott Dadich – former Texas Monthly art director, former Wired art director and now Wired editor-in-chief, and Jake Silverstein – current Texas Monthly editor-in-chief, this panel compares content to record albums. Do consumers want the whole album (records) or just the singles (stories)?

11:00 Changing the Changemakers: Non-Profit Innovation, Austin Convention Center
Pre-Internet-era institutions gave us things like the Clean Air Act, Women’s Suffrage, an end to slavery, and the Civil Rights Act. But times have changed and these organizations weren’t built to move at the speed of the Internet. Today change is increasingly being lead by individuals, activists, and start-up groups — not just name brand change-making organizations. Find out how current and past staff from well-established organizations like UNICEF, Greenpeace, Oxfam, and the Sierra Club are pursuing radical changes in order to thrive and survive in this new landscape

12:30 Rebels at Work: How to Make Real Change After SXSW, Austin Convention Center
People inside the bellies of corporate, government, healthcare, NGO and educational beasts are rising up and trying to save organizations from imploding from inertia and massive outside forces. Many of these individuals attend SXSW looking for ideas and inspiration. They go back to their day jobs with great ideas but no way to implement them. No one has taught individuals what it really takes to fight City Hall and the entrenched executives and bureaucrats who preserve mediocrity. This presentation by Carmen Medina and Lois Kelly will show rebels how to lead change from within without committing career suicide.

3:30 Getting It Done: Online Organizers Making Change, Austin Convention Center
A lot of the best and most meaningful things that happen on the Internet aren’t about making something go viral (ew). They’re about getting people to genuinely care about a cause, a site, or a product – and build an active community around it. Get some practical tips from seasoned online organizers on how to do just that, with lessons from using data to make veterans’ lives better, running social media strategy for Obama 2012, and helping to shape the immigration debate in the U.S.

5:00 The Kids Are All Right: Youth Activism Online, Austin Convention Center
From social media to smart phones, activists across the country have a growing number of tools to advance their causes. NationSwell, a new media company focused on American renewal, has teamed up with Ronnie Cho, formerly associate director of the White House Office for Public Engagement, for a discussion on the ways technology has inspired and empowered youth activists.

View GivingCity’s entire SXSW Interactive Schedule online.


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